Erecting the Big Top, Cole Bros. Circus, 1937


This image from the 1930s shows the Cole Bros. Circus setting the side poles in preparation for erecting the big top tent, a scene that was common at every American circus at that time. In the background can be seen another tent, already set up. Alternating United States and Cole Bros. flags are flying at the top of the six center poles. Cole Bros. Circus was established in 1884 by William Washington Cole (1847–1915) as “W.W. Cole’s New Colossal Shows.” In the 1930s, when this photograph was taken, the circus was known for its giant street parade from the railroad yard to the circus grounds. The photograph is by Harry A. Atwell (1879–1957), an official photographer of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus.

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Glass-plate negative


  1. “Cole Bros. History,”

Last updated: March 21, 2014